This morning I had to take the tweezers to a single, scratchy cat hair that had become embedded inside one of my bra cups. I’m not sure how the hair got inside my bra, but after living with two cats for the last six years, I’ve more or less stopped being surprised when I find cat hair in strange places. And since most cats shed prodigious quantities of it, there’s ample opportunity for cat hair to find its way into nostrils and soup pots when it gets bored with clinging to pant legs, expensive shirts, and gathering under the furniture.
Most cat lovers manage to overlook their pets’ furry deposits up to a point, which is fortunate for cats, since it’s impossible to completely eliminate cat hair from a house with a cat in it. But assuming you have a healthy awareness of hygiene and social mores, you undoubtedly want to minimize the amount of cat hair in your home, on your clothes, your own hair, and, yes, in your nose. That much, at least, is pretty easy to accomplish by adding a few simple steps to your normal pet care routines.
Best Ways to Get Rid of Cat Hair
The most important step in getting rid of cat hair in your home is to keep it from getting loose there in the first place.
If you brush your cat on a regular basis—anywhere from daily to once every two weeks, depending on how much your cat sheds—she’ll have less hair to shed on her own. The picture to the right shows how much hair I brushed from Nina’s coat last week—which is also exactly how much less hair I’ll have to sweep up from the floor (or discover in hairball form) this week. She loved every minute of it, too; in fact, most cats enjoy being brushed as long as you use gentle pressure with a brush that isn’t scratchy. I use, and would recommend, a curry brush with soft rubber bristles that naturally attract hair.
A cat’s skin and coat are easily affected by the animal’s diet, so a high quality cat food can make your cat’s skin less dry and therefore less prone to excess shedding.
Earlier this year, after upgrading Nina’s food a little in the hopes that she would lose some weight, we noticed a difference in the feel of her fur: it became softer and sleeker and less of it came off on our hands when she was pet. She hasn’t lost any weight, and she still sheds like crazy when we brush her, but the extra money we spend on cat food is repaid in time we don’t have to spend chasing after cat hair tumbleweeds on the hardwood floors.
Once the hair leaves the cat, the best way to rid yourself of it is with a vacuum cleaner, a broom, and a dust rag.
Floors and furniture should be vacuumed, swept, or dusted on a regular basis to keep pet hair from accumulating. I do this once a week, and I’m always a little bit impressed with how much the cats manage to shed in just one week…and yet never go bald. Some people vacuum as often as every day, and while cats can certainly produce enough hair to justify that, I’m actually more bothered by vacuuming than by cat hair. However often you choose to vacuum, make sure you get out the hose and attachments, so you can suck hair out of sneaky places like the edges of carpets, under and behind furniture, and in crevices like the ones between radiator coils.
Whenever you wash your clothes or blankets, put them in the dryer if the care instructions permit it.
Wet hair tends to clump up and stick to things, but the hot, dry air flowing through the dryer will remove it, especially if you throw in a fabric softener sheet to break the static cling bond that could otherwise keep the hair stuck to the fabric. Whenever I wash my blankets or bedsheets, I remove an almost embarrassing amount of cat hair from the dryer’s lint filter, and all of that would be on my supposedly clean bedding every week if I were to hang it up to dry instead.
Between laundry days and vacuuming days, you can spot-remove cat hair from clothes and furniture using either a specially-designed tool or a household object adapted to remove hair.
Sticky lint rollers are the most efficient and fabric-friendly option, but if you don’t have one, a piece of masking tape wrapped around your hand will work almost as well. Wiping a damp rubber glove across a hairy surface is another way to harvest quite a bit of pet hair, but unless you’re using a reusable glove, it’s a bit wasteful. In fact, none of these methods is as environmentally-friendly as a reusable lint brush (which you can get at Amazon), but the grabby cloth on a lint brush can be hard on delicate fabrics, so I reserve mine for couches and Christmas tree skirts.
Why Do Cats Shed?
Your cat’s shedding habit may be a major inconvenience for you, but it actually evolved as a central mechanism for the cat’s survival. Outdoor and feral cats shed a little throughout the year to rid themselves of dead, irritating hair and then shed massive amounts of hair twice a year, in the spring and fall, to change the structure of their fur coats in preparation for warm or cold weather. Without the ability to shed an inappropriate coat and build a new one, a cat would never survive major temperature changes in its habitat. Of course, when we bring cats inside to live with us (which is safer for both them and the native songbird population), they no longer need to change their coats with the seasons, but that doesn’t mean they stop trying. In fact, since an outdoor cat’s shed cycle is based on how much or little sunlight the cat is exposed to, indoor cats exposed to artificial light tend to shed constantly instead of seasonally. And that’s just awesome.
Natural Cat Hair Removal
OMop is the environmentally friendly answer to the problem posed by Swiffer’s brilliant but wasteful line of sweepers and mops. The OMop’s biodegradable, corn-based sweeper cloths capture cat hair on contact and then can be composted or thrown away without (much) guilt. When you need to go beyond pet hair removal, the nontoxic microfiber mopping pad is designed to be washed and reused.
Baking soda can do almost anything, and one of its many talents is disrupting the static charge between cat hair and carpet. Just sprinkle the stuff lightly over your rugs before vacuuming to loosen hair and make it easier to vacuum up. If you let the baking soda sit there for 15 minutes, it’ll absorb odors, too.
A Pet Sponge can be used like a lint brush to remove cat hair from furniture and clothing. Because it’s made of natural rubber and can be washed and reused, it’s one of the most environmentally sound options for removing pet hair from surfaces. You can find Pet Hair Lifter (a pet sponge) on Amazon.
The Feline Fantasy Brush allows your cat to groom himself so you don’t have to do it for him quite so often. It’s designed to take advantage of your cat’s natural instinct to rub up against things and makes an especially attractive rubbing place if you throw a handful of catnip onto the brush’s carpeted base. When it starts to look hairy, just take the vacuum cleaner hose to it.
Cat Breeds that Shed Less
Although I would never recommend that you actually replace your cat with one that won’t shed so much, I can empathize if you’re really perplexed by the cat hair issue and want your next cat to leave a little less of itself around the house. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a non-shedding cat, but some cats have less hair than others, and that’s less hair to lose on the couch. For instance, shorthaired cats will generally shed less than longhaired ones. It’s also worth noting that while dark-haired cats may shed just as much as white cats, their hairs will probably be less noticeable. I have a tortoiseshell cat as well as a Siamese, but I always seem to be brushing white hairs off my clothes and furniture. Aside from these basic guidelines, here are a few breeds that have very short, curly, or sparse fur that makes them seem practically shedless:
- Cornish Rex
- Devon Rex